THE deadline to complete the Scottish census is to be delayed due to a lack of responses, it has been reported.

Around a quarter of forms were yet to be filled in as of last weekend, accounting for 700,000 households.

Responses were due to be completed by Sunday, but the Telegraph reports Constitution Secretary Angus Robertson will announce a four-week extension in Parliament on Thursday. A ministerial statement on the census is scheduled for after 2.30pm. 

It is feared that a low response rate could compromise the results of the survey, which are vital for issuing public funds and setting policies.

A spokesman for National Records of Scotland (NRS), which runs the census, said: “Our focus continues to be on supporting and enabling remaining households to complete their census return by the start of May, adding to the over two million households across Scotland that have already done so.”

Earlier this week, Robertson warned it was “absolutely essential” that Scots complete the survey as it was revealed 700,000 of 2.7 million households were yet to do so.

Those who have not completed the census face prosecution and a fine of up to £1000.

The National: Constitution Secretary Angus Robertson is urging Scots to complete the survey Constitution Secretary Angus Robertson is urging Scots to complete the survey (Image: Unknown)

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Last year, the Scottish Government pushed back the census, which is run every decade, by 12 months. Citing concerns about the effect of the pandemic on responses, ministers said the decision would “ensure the highest possible response rate”.

The Auditor General for Scotland said in November that the decision led to a £21.6m increase in costs for the NRS, against the pre-pandemic estimate of £117m. The increase was covered by the Government. 

In the rest of the UK, the survey went ahead as normal in 2021 with a 97% response rate.

Lindsay Paterson, professor of education policy at the University of Edinburgh, raised concerns about postponing the deadline.

He told the Telegraph: “Extending the window for responding raises worrying questions about data quality.

“In normal social surveys, there are strict quality controls on the time given to respond.

“This is because people vary in how they respond, especially for opinion questions such as the several identity questions in the census. For example, how people answer the question about gender identity might vary according to whether some controversy about gender identity is in the news. The same is true of national identity and ethnic identity.”

He added: “As a social statistician, I would not use census data on identity that had such an arbitrarily varying window of replying.”